5 Incredibly Prolific Canadian Business Founders

Canada being an important and well-known country in the business world today, it is home to some of the most influential business founders. These truly powerful businessmen and women have played a key role in making their country the powerhouse today. 

People like Eugene Melnyk, the owner and governor of Ottawa Senators, and John Thompson, who owns the world’s largest information company, are never ignored or undermined. In the same way, you can’t overlook the efforts of the CEO of Indigo Books and Music Inc., Heather Reisman.

Also, how would the name of the man who manages the largest pot of investments in Canada, Mark Wiseman, not ring a bell? Most of these influential Canadian business founders are famous and respected in the country.

Prolific Canadian Business Founders

Here is a comprehensive list of some of the incredibly prolific Canadian business founders and their business ventures. 

  1. Eugene Melnyk

Melnyk is a known Canadian philanthropist and businessman. He is the owner and governor of the National Hockey League’s Ottawa Senators and the AHL’s Belleville Senators. Melnyk was formerly the founder and CEO of Biovail Corporation, which ranked the largest publicly traded pharmaceutical company in Canada. 

At that time, Biovail had over $1billion in annual revenue. Valeant pharmaceuticals later acquired this pharmaceutical company. Melnyk ranks in a top position of the top wealthiest Canadians. He is the founder of the Trimel Corporation, a company that was later bought by Thompson Publications. 

He purchased the Ottawa Senators in 2003 and has since been the owner and governor. In 2019, he founded Neurolign Technologies Inc., a medical device company specializing in treating neurological disorders. 

As the owner of Ottawa Senators, Melnyk always speaks on behalf of the team. That is evident in the TSN press release, “Melnyk: ‘Nonsensical’ trading 2 picks for No. 1,” where he dismisses the idea of trading his team’s’ top two first-round picks for the No. 1.

  1. Garrett Camp

Garrett is a co-founder of StumbleUpon, a web discovery platform. He is also a co-founder of Uber, the most demanded car services worldwide available through a mobile application. Together with the other founders, Camp sold StumbleUpon to eBay in 2007 at an approximate price of $75 million. 

Camp founded Uber, together with Travis Kalanick, in 2009. In one year, Uber had raised over $1.2 million in extra funding. Its growth was rapid, and by 2012, Uber had started operating globally.  

Since he has a passion for founding, he has also created a platform for new companies called Expa. Founders use this start-up studio, and it increases their chances of succeeding. 

In 2007, Garrett Camp featured in the Top Innovators under 35 at Technology Review’s Emerging Technologies Conference. In 2008, he got named as the Tech’s best young entrepreneurs by The Bloomberg Businessweek. He is estimated to be worth $5.3 billion. 

  1. Heather Maxine

Heather is a Canadian entrepreneur and business executive. She is known for founding and being the CEO of the largest and well-known book and specialty toy retailer, Indigo Books & Music. She is also the co-founder of a top global e-reader maker, Kobo. 

Before starting her book store, Heather worked at Borders, an American chain of bookstores, where she acted as the store’s local partner for their expansion into Canada. She later decided to start her big-box book store, which she launched in 1996, as Indigo Books & Music. 

Her husband, the founder, and CEO of Onex Corporation funded Heather in this chain’s launch. Onex is one of Canada’s largest private equity firms. The chain of these book stores multiplied. They mainly sold books and DVDs. 

Three years later, Heather bought Chapters, a top competitor to Indigo, and its subsidiaries Coles and SmithBooks. That made Indigo the most prominent book retailer, and from then, they have not lost this position. 

Besides books, Heather added home décor things in the store and gifts. She later launched a product design and development studio which creates lifestyle products like picture frames and glassware. 

She co-founded Kobo Inc., an electronic reader market and platform. However, competing with Amazon and Apple was not easy for Kobo. She later sold Indigo’s majority stake in Kobo to Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce company. Heather serves as a board member of numerous organizations.

  1. Kevin O’Leary

This Canadian businessman, author, and TV personality co-founded the software company, SoftKey. Kevin initially aspired to become a photographer. After graduating with an MBA degree, he laid the foundation for Special Event Television, specializing in producing sports programs. 

In 1986, he later, with John Freeman and Gray Babcock, co-founded SoftKey Software Products, a company that manufactured computer software. The company endured its rivals in the North American market and later rebranded to The Learning Company. 

Kevin became a multi-millionaire after he sold SoftKey to Mattel at $4.2 billion. However, the company started making losses after getting sold out, and many termed the trade as one of the most disastrous. 

Kevin had planned to acquire Atari, a video game creator, but the deal didn’t materialize. He later became a co-investor and active director at StorageNowHoldings, where he purchased the shares in half a million dollars and sold them at $4 million after four years. 

He wrote a book, Cold Hard Truth, which is about business, money, and life. He is a fan of football, and he supports the New England Patriots.

  1. Tobi Lutke

He is a German-Canadian billionaire entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of Shopify, an application that allows its users to sell products offline. Tobi is also a part of the team of Ruby on Rails, a web application framework. 

Tobi grew an interest in technology when he was 11, where he would rewrite codes of games he played and modify computer hardware. He partnered with his friends, Daniel Weinand and Scott Lake, to create and launch Snowdevil, an online snowboard shop. 

Tobi used Ruby on Rails to build an e-commerce platform for the site. After the founders shifted their focus from the snowboard shop to e-commerce, Tobi launched Shopify. He has won an award of the CEO of the year, and in 2019, the donation he gave of 1 million and one seedlings to team trees was the most significant donation to date. 

Final Words

The investments citizens make in a country contribute significantly to the growth of its economy. Canadian citizens have founded companies that have helped Canada raise its economy. Notably, there are many other Canadian business founders we’ve not mentioned in this list but has also contributed a lot to Canada’s economy.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.